One of the most common questions I receive is about what to feed a dog with diarrhea or other stomach issues, like vomiting and gas. We’ve all been there, and we know how unpleasant it is. The good news is that we can help our canine companions feel better faster. First, we need to identify the cause of the distress and determine whether it’s a serious condition requiring veterinary attention or an acute situation that can be treated with some at-home TLC.
If symptoms like diarrhea or vomiting persist for more than 24 hours, or are accompanied by other worrisome signs such as lethargy or lack of appetite, I err on the side of caution and advise taking a trip to the vet. However, an acute flare-up resulting from a dietary indiscretion or stress colitis, for example, can typically be addressed at home and recovery helped along with proper nutritional management. So, let’s take a look at what to feed a dog with diarrhea or other stomach problems.
Using Traditional Chinese Medicine Principles to Determine What to Feed a Dog With Diarrhea or Other Stomach Issues
For what to feed a dog with diarrhea if it’s acute diarrhea, I like to draw from the ancient wisdom of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) food therapy. This optimizes the individual’s qi (life force) by balancing the internal energies of yin (cold) and yang (heat). According to TCM, all foods have properties that either warm the body, cool the body or are neutral. When the body’s yin and yang are out of balance, disease results.
“Most acute gastrointestinal problems relate to excess yang, or heat, so we want to treat them with cooling yin foods,” says Marc Smith, D.V.M., a Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM) practitioner and owner of Natchez Trace Veterinary Services in Franklin and Nashville, Tennessee, and co-owner of PET | TAO Holistic Pet Products.
Here’s some of Dr. Smith’s advice on what to feed a dog with diarrhea or other stomach ailments. His favorite TCVM food remedies seek to address your dog’s acute upset stomach and get his qi back in balance as quickly as possible:
When it comes to what to feed a dog with diarrhea or other stomach issues, sometimes the best answer is nothing at all. Dr. Smith advises withholding food — but not water — for 12 to 24 hours, depending upon the severity of the situation. “Digestion takes energy, which can further deplete an already compromised organ of its qi,” he says. Allowing the GI tract to rest prepares it to better receive the nutrients that are then introduced. Be sure to provide your dog with water or ice chips to avoid dehydration.
2. Cooling proteins
Chicken tops many lists for what to feed a dog with diarrhea or other stomach upsets, but Dr. Smith warns that chicken is actually a “hot” protein that can further deplete yin energy. He recommends introducing lean cooling proteins, such as rabbit, turkey, white fish, eggs, low-fat cottage cheese, pork or organic tofu. Dr. Smith also advises avoiding yang proteins such as beef, salmon, venison, lamb and goat until the dog’s symptoms fully subside.
White rice is perhaps the most “prescribed” food by veterinarians for what to feed a dog with diarrhea or other acute gastrointestinal distress, but white rice is actually warming. While brown rice is cooling, some dogs experience difficulty digesting it, so Dr. Smith recommends feeding millet instead. “Millet is a cooling food that is also high in protein and rich in vitamins and minerals, such as B vitamins and manganese, making it an excellent choice in times of acute GI distress,” he says.
4. White potato
White potatoes are a cooling food that are also bland and easy to digest, making them perfect answer for what to feed a dog with diarrhea. They help to settle upset stomachs and provide energy without taxing an already stressed GI system. Dr. Smith advises boiling, steaming or baking the potatoes and mashing the flesh. Remove the hard-to-digest skin prior to serving.
“Bananas are both a cooling and moisturizing food, which helps to restore yin energy as well as tonify a dehydrated digestive system,” Dr. Smith says. Bananas also contain pectin, a soluble fiber that helps bind water in the colon and coat the GI tract. An added bonus: They’re rich in potassium, an important electrolyte that can become depleted during bouts of diarrhea or vomiting. Dr. Smith recommends giving about 1 teaspoon of mashed banana per 10 pounds of body weight.
Like bananas, apples are another great option for what to feed a dog with diarrhea or other tummy upsets. Apples are an excellent source of pectin to alleviate loose stool and soothe the intestines. Opt for applesauce, which is far easier to digest than raw apples, and be sure to use only plain, unsweetened products. As with banana, give about 1 teaspoon per 10 pounds of body weight.
Peppermint is a cooling herb that can be the perfect answer to what to feed a dog with diarrhea or other stomach troubles. It helps alleviate spasms and calm the muscles of the intestinal tract, enabling trapped gas to pass. Peppermint may also contain antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties. It is strong, so a little goes a long way. Dr. Smith recommends giving peppermint in the form of fresh chopped leaves. Feed about 1/4 teaspoon to a small dog, ½ teaspoon to a medium dog and 1 teaspoon to a large dog. Never give your dog human peppermint products, which can contain toxic ingredients like xylitol. Avoid peppermint if your dog has gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), as it can worsen symptoms.
The Bottom Line on TCM and What to Feed a Dog With Diarrhea or Other Stomach Upsets
Dr. Smith notes that TCM therapy for an acute upset stomach differs from a chronic gastrointestinal condition, such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). “In cases of a chronic illness or when symptoms persist for more than a couple of days, veterinary evaluation is essential to determine the proper treatment protocol,” he says.
But if your dog is down in the dumps from an acute case of stomach upset, applying the ancient wisdom of TCM food therapy can help balance his qi — and get him back on his feet — faster.
Tell us: What do you feed a dog with diarrhea or other stomach issues? What foods have worked for you?
Thumbnail: Photography ©Lindsay_Helms| Getty Images.
This piece was originally published in 2018.
About the author
Diana Laverdure-Dunetz, MS, is a canine nutritionist and co-author, with W. Jean Dodds, D.V.M., of two books, including Canine Nutrigenomics: The New Science of Feeding Your Dog for Optimum Health. Their online course, Complete Canine Nutrition, can be found at myhealthydog.dog.
Editor’s note: This article first appeared in Dogster magazine. Have you seen the new Dogster print magazine in stores? Or in the waiting room of your vet’s office? Subscribe now to get Dogster magazine delivered straight to you!
38 thoughts on “What to Feed a Dog With Diarrhea or Other Stomach Issues”
Boiled Chicken & white rice has always worked for my Goldens
My Lacey has bad gas problems at night has been to the vet several times what can I give her she is awake all night with being uncomfortable with the gas
If the simple fixes don’t work (they didn’t for us) you may want to try Forza10 Colon Diet. We tried everything from Olewo, to pumpkin, to hydrolyzed protein based foods to homemade bland and nothing worked. We thought we were going to have to go with steroids to help our girl but gave Forza10 a last ditch try after reading their studies on their success with treating colitis in dogs. After just two days our Amber had perfectly formed stools and has shown no sign of straining or urgency every since. Cannot recommend this product highly enough. In fact, I communicated with the company and encouraged them to start sharing their product research with vet schools as I believe their products to be of far higher quality than the typical vet prescribed dog food. We found it at our local feed store but it is cheaper on Chewy and are now on Chewy’s subscription service to save money.
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my french bulldog of 9 years, has had chronic very loose stool for many a month,
been to the vet, tried hills vet products for sensitive stomachs, 77.00 per 5 kilo bags,
but still loose stools, with poo on her bottom every time she goes, 2 a day. we are always
wiping her bottom, which upsets her.
she has lost 500g of weight….
she is shivering more lately, if it is cold, we live in australia. but she is still bright and delightful.
i am at wits end. we have tried the chicken and rice
I heard about the Purina Fortaflora probioic being used for stomach issues & loose stools. I tried it with my westie and was totally amazed at her improvements! You give them only one packet of the probiotic a day (sprinkled on one of their meals each day). I’ve been told not to try dividing it between the two meals . She now eats more regularly and seems to have more energy too. She has a sour tummy every once and awhile, but I’m hoping that as she gets a little older, she might grow out of that; she is just under 2 yrs. of age. The Fortaflora has a flavoring in it that the dogs seem to go crazy for. Talk to your vet about it before trying it on your dog. My understanding is that using probiotic supplements on our pets is new territory for the doctors.
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Champions choice probiotic paste and or pro gut plus paste does wonders too….
Thank you!!! This e-mail article came at just the right time for me. My Westie had her shots about 2 weeks ago which included the Lepto-4 vaccine, which I think she had a reaction to. She had diarrhea, sour stomach, and loss of appetite. We’ve been dealing with this for over 10 days since all her vaccines/shots now and she is just beginning to come out of it. She has good days & bad days still. She’s only 16 months old now and it was just a lot for her to handle at such a young age. Have been feeding her chicken, white rice with a little kibble. Wasn’t sure what was best. This article was very helpful.
i have to share a sort of funny story. Our darling senior big brown dog Bronson once had an upset bowel. I lovingly prepared white rice and cooked plain chicken for a bland meal which he ate. I later found him outside standing on his hind legs head in the wheeli rubbish bin trying to feast on leftovers. i was not impressed!
I give my dog canned pumpkin, about a tablespoon for Diarrhea.
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The only issue I have with this article is that it fails to mention that if your dog has any sort of kidney disease, it is not best to feed him/her foods high in phosphorous which millet and bananas appear to be from what I’ve read. Any clarification on that would be super!
Hi there Amy,
Thanks for reaching out! We suggesting contacting your vet for clarification. Here is an article you might find helpful on kidney disease:
I find that rice water works. When I make rice for the dogs I add double the water . When the rice is done, I drain the water, cool it, and feed it to my dog. When she’s almost back to normal, I feed her some of the regular rice mixed with her kibble
My dog, Philip, is 1.5 years old dachshund and he lives in Mississauga, Ontario. He recently started having a soft stool whenever he does it outdoors. I find it very strange because when he does it inside, his stool is normal. If you wonder why he’s allowed to do it indoors, it’s because he lives in an apartment and it’s extremely cold during winter so I’ve trained him to do it indoors with the help of a training pad.
Please, let me know if you know the reason for this issue. I suspect for it to be related to some environmental cause because of the fact that it only happened outdoors.
Hi there Danny —
Thanks for reaching out! Here are some articles with more information on dog stool:
Check out a product called a “Bark Potty”. It’s natural bark in a scrim covered box which encouraged our dog to do his business on our boat. No odor and a plastic tray catches urine to keep it from soaking through.
Where do I get a bark potty?
We also feed out dachshunds a little bit of pumpkin with each meal (make sure it’s not the pie filling version — it has spices in it). But when the girl dog has issues (she has more than the boy who is our iron stomach dog), we feed her white rice, and it does the trick. However, since she is our “diva dog,” she is picky about which rice she likes. If it’s jasmine rice, she’ll scarf it down like it’s filet mignon. If it’s just “normal” rice, she’ll have to be coaxed.
But fasting also works. Chicken — never! She’s allergic.
Too much dark chicken meat seems to give my dog loose stools. The breast meat does not seem to affect her as much.
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What do you give that has a gas problem?
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Wow, TCM, what a load of woo.
A mind is like a parachute, it doesn’t work if it isn’t open!
Definitely raw pumpkin! Works to regulate diarrhea or constipation. My 75lb dog gets about 1/2 C as a snack before bed when she’s having either issue and then after her morning “business” she’s feeling and acting great again!
Agree with the pumpkin! Organic canned pumpkin. Add a teaspoon of real maple syrup if finicky!
Pumpkin! Works like a charm (unsweetened canned pumpkin)
I agree. Plain, canned pumpkin with no additives works great for my dog when she has diarrhea or constipation. Seems to work for both issues. She also likes it.
I agree! It works with my German Shepherd!
I was told to mix pumpkin in with my puppy’s food and it worked immediately.
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I use Olewo Carrots when my dog has diarrhea or other digestive issues. This is the best product I have ever come across and it is all natural. You can buy it on Amazon or Chewy. Actually I add it to my Greyhound’s food every day now because it has many other benefits, and he never gets diarrhea anymore. I found out about Olewo on GreyTalk and I wish I had known about this product sooner.
I also use carrots. i wish I had known long ago.